Pitching the Wrong Superman as Christ-like

So a couple of days ago, my dad and I were cracking up over an article about people pitching “Man of Steel” as a “Christ story” suffering backlash because the clergy who watched the movie felt that this version of Superman was anything but Christ-like. The schadenfreude was so sweet that you can sell to children. By the bag.

The situation on its own was hilarious, of course. But then, as we watched the much-maligned previous Superman movie “Superman Returns” on cable last night, Dad and I realized something startling.

The Brandon Routh Superman? HE was the Christ-like dude.

Superman Returns
My children… (Photo credit: Michael @ NW Lens)

More sacrifices than the Man of Steel

Superman gave up a hell of a lot by the end of “Superman Returns”. Not only did he keep fighting while having a piece of kryptonite lodged into his torso, he also used as much of his remaining strength as he could to take this landmass (which is ALSO laced with kryptonite) off of the earth’s atmosphere so it won’t kill a shitload of people due to world-wide water displacement and the like. THEN he gave up Lois and SPOILER ALERT!!! his son. He came as close to sacrificing his life as he could to save a whole bunch of human beings AND chose to let this Kryptonian kid learn to be human with a human father – even if it hurts him.

He gave stuff up so that someone else’s life could be better. THAT is being Christ-like.

When they decided to compare Superman to Christ, they should have chosen THIS version, and not the Man of Steel version. It would have been a more appropriate comparison.

Superman Returns was over-criticized

Practically every time someone talks about “Man of Steel”, they bring up “Superman Returns” and cite it as the worst Superman movie out there  – even if people claimed to like it when it first came out. My father’s assertions aside (he still thinks that the stinkiest stinker of them all is “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace“), watching the film after I watched the most recent iteration inclines me to agree. “Returns” wasn’t as bad if you take into consideration that it’s an honest and earnest homage to the Christopher Reeve films. If you remember that as you watch it, then you’ll be more willing to accept the logical leaps because it works with the logical premises of the older movies.

I’m trying to figure out what made the film horrible in the memory of fans – including myself.

Is it because it had an absolutely stupid villain? By that point, we’ve already improved our interpretations of Lex Luthor so he could become a character that you can truly contrast with Superman. To see him regress to an egomanic mad scientist that resorts to swindling old women was difficult and senseless schemes is painful, even if it’s consistent with his characterization in previous films.

Is it (more shallowly) because the film took Bryan Singer AND James Marsden away from X-Men 3, which basically made me want to forget that the last movie in that trilogy ever existed? A lot of people are of the opinion that Last Stand wouldn’t have been what it was if they still had a Cyclops and a great film maker to work with. Is it Marvel vs. DC politicking again?

Or is it just because it didn’t have the happy ending, where Superman gets the girl and their son? I don’t know.

What I do know is, in retrospect, that THIS Superman is worth admiring. And when I try to write any super-powered stories, I’ll have to keep this guy in mind because he’s TRULY heroic. Not just in the physical sense. In the truly moral sense too.